February 14, 2017 10:44:31 PM
Those are qualities coaches covet in any sport. But finding players who have those traits is a dream come true for a soccer coach who needs someone to work hard on the outside to keep opponents in check.
In right midfielder Nathan Wilson, New Hope High School soccer coach Andrew Olsen had at least one player like that this season.
"Every practice he gave 100 percent," Olsen said. "He never took a day off. He was always trying to improve himself."
Those qualities helped Wilson, a captain, play a key role on a New Hope High team that won 13 games and advanced to the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A tournament.
After scoring eight goals and earning seven assists, Wilson will get a chance to continue his maturation as a soccer player at Mississippi University for Women. Wilson, who has played most of his high school career as a right midfielder, made the announcement Tuesday morning in a signing ceremony in the school's library.
"I am really excited to be a part of the first W team," Wilson said. "It will be a really cool experience to go down on one of the first soccer teams they have. I am ready to start playing. It is hard to put into words. I am just excited."
Wilson has been playing soccer ever since he was about 5 years old. He said he got his start in the youth leagues at the Joe Cook Complex in Complex. He then moved on to play with Columbus United. He also played with Amory 240 for two years before he joined his Impact Football Club in Starkville. He said he isn't sure where he will play with IFC because his team will have a new formation, but he believes it will be somewhere in the midfield.
That likely will be a perfect home for Wilson because Olsen said has the ideal attitude to play on the outside. He said he never heard a bad thing about Wilson after he took the job and started to learn about the players. Two to three weeks into offseason training, Olsen saw for himself at a conditioning session at Lake Lowndes.
"I was making them run, about two miles and hills and everything, and I didn't notice until I looked down and he had sandals on," Olsen said. "I said, 'Man, you didn't have to run with sandals on.' He said, 'I didn't want to sit off to the side while everybody was putting in work.' I knew right there he was one of the hardest workers."
Olsen said having "selfless" players like Wilson with non-stop work rates is essential because outside midfielders don't often get the glory, but he said they do a lot of the grinding to help stop attacks or to set up scoring opportunities.
"I think having a guy like that who puts the team first and is doing his job and his role in a key position, I think you need somebody like that on the field," Olsen said.
Olsen said he knew Wilson wanted to try to continue his soccer career in college. Wilson said he considered attending Itawamba Community College in Fulton in part because he said that is where most of his friends are going. When that didn't work out, he said he turned his attention to The W. Wilson said the location of the school, the campus, and the fact that the school has a pre-engineering program were positives that he added to his list. The opportunity to keep playing soccer completed the circle.
Wilson said he hopes to bring the same qualities he displayed at New Hope High to The W so he can make an impact on the Owls' first teams.
"I probably didn't start off with those traits (of being relentless and selfless), but I kind of developed them," Wilson said. "I just try to get my teammates the ball and have them score. I guess I go for the ball a lot and try to win it as much as I can.
"I can run a lot on the outsides. I feel I do that pretty well. I can play crossing balls into my teammates, so playing outside midfielder fits me pretty well."
After watching Wilson play a key role this season, Olsen would certainly agree.
"I feel he grew as a player as the season progressed," Olsen said. "He was a big asset for us. He was one of the guys who kept his composure no matter the situation. He always was the guy who was calm and trying to help win a game for us.
"He was just relentless. We are going to miss that in the midfield next year when he is gone."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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